LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British soul singer Sam Smith took an early lead at the Grammy awards on Sunday with two wins, including best new artist, at the music industry's top awards.
Smith, 22, also won best pop vocal album for "In The Lonely Hour," accepting his gramophone-shaped trophy from Bee Gees' singer Barry Gibb.
"Before I made this record, I was doing everything to try and get my music heard," Smith said. "I tried to lose weight and I was making awful music and it was only until that I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen."
Pharrell beat out Smith's "Stay With Me" in the best pop solo performance category with his toe-tapping track "Happy."
"I am not gonna make this awkward and long because I was so prepared for everybody else in the category to walk away with that award. I am honored to be grouped with them," Pharrell said.
All eyes are on Smith, who beat out Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, British alt-rock band Bastille, country artist Brandy Clark and sister band Haim for the coveted best new artist award, amid speculation that he could emulate Adele's 2012 sweep of the honors handed out by the Recording Academy.
Much like fellow Brit Adele, who swept the Grammys with six wins, Smith is nominated in six categories including the night's top three categories for record, album and song of the year, after his debut album "In The Lonely Hour" stormed the U.S. charts last year, led by his soulful song "Stay With Me."
But he faces stiff competition from Pharrell, who also has six nominations on Sunday, including three in the album of the year category including his own album "GIRL" as well as his production work on records by Beyonce and Ed Sheeran.
Many of this year's top Grammy contenders have found their roots in online streaming music, including Smith, Azalea and singer Meghan Trainor, whose Grammy-nominated track "All About That Bass" has been streamed more than 580 million times on YouTube.
Ahead of the televised ceremony, more than 70 winners in the Grammys' 80-plus categories were announced. Pharrell won two - for best urban contemporary album category and best music video for "Happy."
MONOCHROME RED CARPET
While the Grammy show television on CBS will award a handful of winners, including those for the top categories of the night, much of the show is dedicated to dynamic performances of the industry's biggest stars.
Veteran rockers AC/DC kicked off music's biggest night with classics "Rock or Bust" and "Highway to Hell" as the audience donned devil horns, before pop singer Ariana Grande showcased her vocals on the piano-led ballad "Just a Little Bit of Your Heart."
British singers Jessie J and Tom Jones performed the first of many duets, singing The Righteous Brothers' classic 1964 song "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin."
On the Grammys red carpet, where pop stars are known for making statements in bold outfits, veteran pop star Madonna split critics with the choice of a matador-inspired derriere-baring black lace Givenchy bodysuit.
Pharrell, who last year wore an oversized hat that inspired its own Twitter account, opted for a reflective silver tux and shorts combination that created havoc in pictures with photographers' flashes.
White and black were the favored choices among many of pop's leading ladies, including Gwen Stefani in a black mesh Versace jumpsuit, Ariana Grande in a white and silver one-shouldered Versace dress and Katy Perry in a white sheer fitted Zuhair Murad number teamed with lilac hair.
The shy and quirky singer-songwriter Sia wore a black high-collared dress with leggings and an oversized white wig covering her face, accompanied by teen dancer Maddie Ziegler, the star of her "Chandelier" video, dressed as her mini-me.
Pops of color came from Swift, who opted for a full-skirted leg-baring turquoise Elie Saab gown, and Rihanna, who wore a billowing, layered pink Giambattista Valli dress.
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)